Monday, June 29, 2015


Published: BBC Magazine, June 29, 2015;
Level of difficulty: **
  • What is Empathy?
  • Now do the following test designed by Simon Baron-Cohen to determine how good you are at reading people. You will learn the significance of this test when you read the text.
  • Now watch the following video:
  1. What word could you substitute for the word “integral” in the subtitle?
  2. What does “this message” refer to in the sentence “Humans are naturally primed to embrace this message”
  • Empathy is written into our genetic code; i.e. it is inherited
  • It is important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes
  • It is not possible to understand someone unless you love them
  • It is possible to understand people if you share their life.
  1. Could Hannibal Lector understand “this message”? Why?
  2. What conclusion can we draw from the example of the mother, the earthquake, the six year-old twins and the writer’s partner?
  3. Does the conclusion Cohen reached at the end of his research tally with the writer’s view expressed earlier in the text?
  4. Interrupting a person halfway through his account of a problem to take words out of his mouth and finish his story for him because you think you know what he is going to say is right / wrong because  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
  5. Read the example of conflict resolution. Repeating what the staff member said gives the message that:
  • The boss knows what the staff member is talking about
  • The boss wants to correct the staff member if necessary
  • The boss has actually listened to the staff member
  • The boss has actually understood the staff member
  • All of the above
  • None of the above
  • Other: please specify
  1. Read the wonderful poem by Bertolt Brecht and state clearly what the message is. Begin as follows: It is important to
A Worker Reads History By Bertolt Brecht
Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima's houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?

Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?

So many particulars.
So many questions.

  1. What are the advantages of chatting to strangers?
  2. Go to the following link and watch the video: . The message the museum is trying to give is that: …………………………………………………………………………………
Write an essay or paragraph were you discuss the ways in which mutual understanding can be improved.
  1. Radical listening
  2. Look for the human behind everything
  3. Become curious about strangers.
This wonderful little text comes with a couple of self explanatory videos and a test. It should lead to a fruitful discussion and a reading into writing activity. The good thing is that the text addresses a very complex issue but discusses it at a relatively simple level.
  1. Very important or necessary
  2. The second
  3. No, he was a psychopath and incapable of feeling empathy
  4. Most don’t tap into their full empathic potential in everyday life (The empathy gap can appear in personal relationships too will not do as it doesn’t cover the first two examples; the empathy gap on its own is grammatically not possible)
  5. Yes it does.
  6. Wrong; it doesn’t give them the feeling of being understood
  7. Other: 3 and 4
  8. Deepen empathic concern for others by developing an awareness of all those individuals hidden behind the surface of our daily lives (on whom we may depend on some way)
  9. It opens up our empathic minds, we can meet fascinating people , we can challenge the assumptions and prejudices that we have.
  10. Empathy is the cornerstone of healthy human relationships.

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